AGGRESSIVE EMPLOYMENT LITIGATION
Employment Law Basics
In California, most employees are often referred to as "at will." This means if you do not have a written employment contract, there may be no reasonable expectation of secure employment, and you can be terminated "at will" by your employer. You, as a general rule, can be fired for any reason, even an unfair reason, or for no reason at all. It also means you can quit for any reason at all. This may seem unfair, but "fairness" is not the standard by which one judges whether a termination is illegal.
To be considered "wrongful termination" under the law, the termination must violate some fundamental public policy. This means a state or federal statute, regulation, or constitutional provision is violated by the termination. For example, "wrongful termination" claim occurs when the employer's actual reason for firing the employee is based on some form of discrimination, such as an employee's race, religion, age, sex, disability, sexual orientation or national origin.
These claims fall within the jurisdiction of the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing; after an administrative investigation or a "right to sue" letter is obtained from DFEH, one has a common law claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy.
The same applies to a termination made in retaliation for an employee's opposition to or complaints regarding discrimination or harassment based on any of the protected classifications. For example, if an employee complains of sexual harassment, and is then subjected to unwarranted work-related criticism, disciplined, written up, or fired, he/she would have a claim for retaliation under both state law [DFEH] and common law.
Hostile Work Environment
Generally, yelling, screaming, demeaning language, or unfair workload, is not considered "unlawful" if it is based upon a personality conflict. If your supervisor treats everyone poorly, regardless of their race, religion, sex, or age, you might not have a case. Such conduct, however, will be considered illegal if the harasser is motivated by malice and/or ill will against you that is based on some protected characteristic or classification set forth above.
Another example of a violation of public policy would be if an employee complains about what he/she reasonably perceives as a violation of law, such as a failure to pay overtime, failure to provide lunch breaks, failure to provide family or medical leave, late-payment of salary or wages, or workplace safety issues, and is fired in retaliation for being a "whistle blower," that would also constitute an actionable claim for wrongful termination.
It is important to understand that only "unwelcome" harassment that is sufficiently severe or "pervasive" to create a hostile or abusive work environment is unlawful. Therefore, trivial or isolated harassment, even if based on some protected classification, may not be deemed unlawful. As a general rule, the more severe the incidents (i.e., physical contact is more severe than offensive language) the less frequently they need to happen before it is considered illegal. In other words, if the harassing conduct is less severe the law may require it to also be regular or constant. Since only "unwelcome" harassment is illegal, you must make it clear to the harasser that you find his/her conduct unwanted and offensive.
RLG attorneys are experienced in all aspects of employment law. If you have been wrongfully treated at the hands of your employer, an employment attorney at RLG will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. We serve the entire Bay Area.
For outstanding legal representation, please contact RLG for a free consultation: (415) 877-4486